Reporter: Rebecca Blundon
On March 26, the Rotaract Club of Durham College and UOIT held its final event of the year called “The Power of a Story” to spread awareness about human trafficking.
The Rotaract Club is dedicated to local and international humanitarian initiatives and professional development, as well as bringing peace and understanding to the world.
The purpose of the event is to raise awareness that human trafficking happens locally and internationally, said Hayley McNamara, Rotaract Club president.
“It’s a violation of basic human rights,” said Const. Julie Meeks, who works for the RCMP and spoke at the event.
According to the RCMP Human Trafficking Co-ordination Centre (HTCC), human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation.
This exploitation is usually in the sex industry or forced labour, according to the HTCC. Human trafficking is also different than human smuggling.
“Human smuggling is not human trafficking,” said Const. Meeks.
“Where there’s human smuggling, it’s a voluntary transaction because people who are being smuggled into Canada want to come to Canada.”
At the event, students were able to make luminaria, white paper bags with a battery-operated candle inside and words written on the bag in marker. The members of the Rotaract Club wanted this event to be interactive for students.
“The reason why we wanted to do the luminaria was the lighting of the event itself,” said McNamara. “You decorate the bag, you want to raise that hope and awareness towards the future.”
Along with the luminaria, visitors to the event were able to hear a touching monologue read by a student, Safura Fathima, about a woman who was a victim of human trafficking.
In addition to Const. Meeks, Sgt. Ron Kapuscinski also gave a presentation about human trafficking.
Their goal was to engage with the audience and encouraged them to spread awareness that human trafficking can happen anywhere and what signs to look for.
“One of my roles, I feel, is awareness and spreading education,” said Kapuscinski, who has worked with Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS) for over 20 years. “Today, our modern day form of slavery is human trafficking.”
He continued to say that while human trafficking in Canada includes the exploitation of people for the use of forced labour and debt bondage, more than 90 per cent of human trafficking is to force women into the sex trade.
“One girl can make an average of $250,000 per year,” said Sgt. Kapuscinski. “One girl generally has a quota to make between $700 to $1,500 a day. The average rate here in Oshawa is $100 for a half hour.”
According to Kapuscinski, the victims of human trafficking who are required to meet these financial quotas will not see a penny of the money and they live in poor conditions where they are fed fast food rarely and are isolated from people.
“Women and girls deceived are recruited in different places such as UOIT, Durham College, even recruited right here at the pub E.P. Taylor’s,” said Sgt. Kapuscinski.
“We have cases regularly involving girls that have been recruited from your own neighbourhood.”
According to HTCC, there are certain signs of someone who is a victim of human trafficking.
The HTCC states signs to look for such as withdrawing from friends and family, protective of new relationship, unexplained cuts or bruises, tattooing or branding symbols and cigarette burns on the body.
“People who are victims of this are from all walks of life,” said Kapuscinski.